460. Adam’s Story: The Premise

For anyone new to Adam’s story, here’s an introduction.

We begin with the basics today. The finer points of story planning really ought to wait until I’ve said a thing or two about my story’s fundamental premise.

Here we go.

Alone

Death! What a cheerful way to start a story.

Lance Eliot is dying, and he’s not terribly happy about it. Death is unexpectedly complicated. (Seriously, have you ever tried it? The legal paperwork is horrendous.) As he resignedly puts his affairs in order, Lance sits down to write a memoir of his adventures. He doesn’t expect anyone to believe it, but his story deserves to be told, and he’ll tell it if it’s the last thing he does… which it probably will be. Man, death is a nuisance.

This is his story.

Long before his death, Lance Eliot is a college student in the little town of Crossroads, Indiana. He’s eager to go home for Christmas break, but one thing stands in his way. He must confront a professor nicknamed the Skeleton—a gaunt, ill-tempered instructor of literary criticism—and plead for a passing grade in his class.

After a torturous discussion of Dante’s Inferno, Lance escapes the Skeleton, staggers to the nearest coffee shop, and buys a drink. Then, with no warning whatsoever, he disappears from Crossroads and reappears in a strange new world. Lance is lost and alone. Worst of all, when he vanished, he left behind his drink.

Spiritual coffee

Never mind Lance dying. Losing his coffee is the real tragedy here.

Lance eventually learns that he was transported to this unfamiliar world by an arcane power called aer… or as he puts it, “basically magic.” He’s now stranded in the kingdom of Guardia, a tropical nation tucked between two vast empires. Its society is antiquated, but not primitive; Lance later compares it to the Renaissance.

In some ways, Guadia seems too fantastical to be true. Aer, that mystical power, is channeled by a gifted few known as aerists. Stories abound of El Enthroned, the Greater God, and of his servants, the Twelve Seraphs. Dragons exist, apparently. Lance is skeptical, and not exactly pleased. “I’m stranded in a fantasy novel,” he grumbles. “Great.”

His mood only worsens when he learns why he was brought to Guardia. The kingdom stands upon the brink of annihilation. A young aerist, eager to help, tried to summon Lancelot, the legendary knight of Camelot… but got Lance Eliot instead. It’s hard to say who’s more upset: Lance Eliot, or the people who got him instead of the hero they wanted.

Now trapped in Guardia, Lance must face many trials to find a way home, and he’ll have to do it all without coffee. Even if he manages to get back to Crossroads, he’ll still have to face the Skeleton. Lance would frankly rather face the dragons.

Thus begins begins the story of Lance Eliot, which is also kind of my story. I did name this series of blog posts Adam’s Story for a reason, y’know. The next post in the series will probably focus on the setting or characters. We’ll see.

Thanks for reading!

454. Adam’s Story: Introduction

A new series of posts begins today. As this blog stumbles doggedly toward its final post, I’m planning my next big personal project. I want to rewrite a story. I speak, of course, of the Lance Eliot saga: a trilogy of fantasies, and a dream I’ve chased for more than a decade. At this point, I have no delusions of grandeur, fame, or literary excellence. I just want to get the damned thing written.

Sooner or later, every creative person reaches a point at which he just wants to scream and shake things—preferably sharp, pointy things. (Art by JK Riki.)

A while back, when I wondered whether to discuss my story here, nobody raised any objections, so here we are. I’m not sure how often I’ll publish posts about the Lance Eliot saga, but they won’t take over TMTF or anything. This blog’s regularly scheduled nonsense shall continue!

I’ve decided to title this series Adam’s Story. I considered longer titles, like Adam’s Story Project, and more specific ones, like The Lance Eliot Saga, but settled on a title that’s short, sweet, and personal. After all, Adam’s Story refers to more than a story I want to write. It is also my story, the story of Adam, who has spent (or misspent; the jury’s still out) an alarming number of hours making up stories about a guy named Lance Eliot.

I’m actually really excited to write about the Lance Eliot saga, for at least five reasons.

  1. It will let me work on two things—this blog and story planning—at the same time, and with the same effort. How efficient!
  2. It will provide, I hope, a smooth transition from writing a blog to writing the story itself.
  3. It will force me to be a bit more disciplined. I can’t write about an aspect of the story until I’ve made sufficient progress in planning it, so I won’t be able to skip steps or cut corners!
  4. It will allow me to express my enthusiasm for the Lance Eliot saga, and to spread awareness of it. Every bit helps!
  5. It will allow me to share some of my ideas. Even if I’m not able to finish the Lance Eliot saga, at least I will have gotten some of its details out of my head.

I’m currently rereading the latest version of the story’s first part, the one I published a few years ago, and it… needs a lot of work. Heck, it needs a lot of work.

This is a picture of me throwing away the torn-up pieces of my story’s published version. Hold on, my mistake, it’s actually that version’s cover. How… apropos.

The new version won’t be anything special, but I hope to make it much better than previous ones.

Will I publish my story? I don’t know. I haven’t planned that far ahead. I’ve stopped calling the Lance Eliot saga “my book project,” and begun referring to it as “my story project.” I should probably write it before I think about publication, and I should probably plan it before I start writing.

As I plan the Lance Eliot saga, each post in the Adam’s Story series shall focus on an aspect of it. Relax, there won’t be any huge spoilers here. That said, there will be small spoilers, but nothing past the story’s earlier chapters.

Here are some of my ideas for posts about my fantasy and its world.

Story

I have to lay out the basics at some point, right? There won’t be any massive reveals here: just the early stuff!

Characters

There’s obviously a character named Lance Eliot. This post shall share a few more.

Setting

The setting is changing from previous versions of the story. I hope to make it more unique, with more details from personal experiences, and fewer generic fantasy elements. (There shall still be dragons, though. I can’t bring myself to leave them out.) The geography is changing a bit, too.

Goodbye, old setting. We hardly knew ye.

I guess this means my dad and I will need to make a new map. It’s a good thing he’s a patient man.

Politics

Earlier versions of the story didn’t really delve into politics. I want to change that. The simplistic political scene of earlier drafts shall be replaced with a tenser situation, finding such diverse inspirations as the Cold War, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Final Fantasy XII. Lance Eliot’s story shall be an adventure, not a political thriller, but I’m excited to give it some political background.

Lore

Like the story’s politics, its lore shall be more nuanced this time around. In The Lord of the Rings and his other fantasies, J.R.R. Tolkien imagined the God of Christianity in a fantastical context. I plan to do the same, taking cues from the later Old Testament, and borrowing ideas from Greco-Roman mythology and the Legend of Zelda series.

Aer

I really struggled with the concept of magic as I wrote earlier versions of the Lance Eliot saga. At first, I fought to reconcile magic with a Christian worldview, and I think I’ve figured out that part. Now my struggle is to invent a kind of magic that isn’t too vague, generic, or unbelievable. The magic in my story isn’t actually called by that name; for now, I’m calling it aer. What is it? Why aer? You’ll just have to wait and see.

Literary criticism

Yep, this is a theme of my story… but not really. Literary criticism, for all its usefulness, can be a bit silly. Nah, its purpose in my story is to lead to something else… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Dante’s Divine Comedy

I plan for my story’s three parts to parallel, however loosely, the three parts of the Divine Comedy. The first part of my story shall borrow from Dante’s Inferno, and it’s going to be a hell of a ride. (Alternatively: It’s going to be a damned good time. I can’t resist these puns, guys. I’m so sorry.)

I may cover more aspects of the story; I don’t know. Today’s post covers pretty much everything I have planned for now.

That said, this story won’t plan itself, so I’d better get back to it.

449. Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Introverts (but Were Afraid to Ask)

I’m currently gathering questions for a blog Q&A this Friday. I’ve received questions from exactly one person so far. (God bless him.) Friday’s post will be really short if no one else speaks up! If you’ve ever wanted to ask me anything about my life, blog, book project, or anything else, ask away!

I plan to attend a writing conference later this summer. It will probably be an educational experience. It shall certainly be a caffeinated one. I plan to drink a lot of coffee, that very present help in trouble. After all, as an introvert at a crowded social event, I’ll need all the help I can get.

That said, I recently picked up a book titled Networking for People Who Hate Networking on my latest visit to the bookstore. The book was on sale, is marketed to introverts, and has penguins on the cover. Penguins, guys. How could I refuse?

Networking with penguins

Professional Networking: Now with 100% More Penguins!

The book hasn’t offered any spectacular insights, but it has served (so far) as a solid introduction to introverts, extroverts, and ways both groups can connect with new people.

A few of the book’s points are well worth sharing, so I am going to share them.

Misconceptions shall be shattered! Stereotypes shall be broken! A sword day, a red day, and the sun rises! Ride now! Ride—wait, sorry, that’s Théoden’s speech from The Return of the King. I got a bit carried away. Let me try again.

For introverts and extroverts alike—and for all of those people who don’t know the difference—here is everything you ever wanted to know about introverts, but were afraid to ask.

Trying to cope

I’m an introvert. You may have noticed.

Introverts are not necessarily shy or quiet.

Many introverts can be talkative; this introvert, especially so. Introverts are often labeled shy because we tend to be guarded around people we don’t know well. Once we feel comfortable around others, we drop our guard and speak up.

Extroverts, by contrast, often feel comfortable talking around others, even people whom they don’t know well. That can be a great gift. Good for you, extroverts.

I’m generally very quiet around new people. Once I get to know them, they sometimes can’t shut me up.

Introverts are not necessarily negative.

Introverts tend to be less impulsive than extroverts. We need time to consider circumstances and process decisions. Thus, when given a request or invitation for which an immediate response is expected, we tend to say, “No.”

If we have a little time to think about an invitation or request, and to make up our minds without being rushed, introverts are much more likely to respond positively.

Introverts need time alone.

I use the word need here deliberately. We don’t merely want it—we need time alone in order to function well. Without opportunities to regain our mental balance, away from distractions and other people, we become stressed, anxious, or grumpy.

This, dear reader, this is why it bothers me so much when people interrupt me when I’m reading a book on break at work. It isn’t really about the book. In my job, which consists of working with dementia patients whose behaviors are often exhausting, I need time alone, immersed in a book, without coworkers dragging me into inane conversations. I get enough tiring human interactions when I’m working; I don’t need them on break.

Not that I’m bitter or anything.

(I may be a little bitter.)

Introverts tend to weigh their words carefully.

I typically choose my words with near-obsessive care. I want to say exactly what I mean, and to mean everything I say. Nuances matter to me. Like most introverts, I think to talk.

Extroverts, by contrast, often talk to think. Talking is how they reach their conclusions. They think out loud. This means their views and opinions can change wildly from one conversation to the next, and even from one moment to the next. This makes it easy for introverts to label extroverts thoughtless or indecisive. It’s important for introverts and extroverts alike to understand these differences in mental processing.

Introverts excel at depth, not quantity.

Extroverts often have vast social circles. Introverts tend to have a close circle of dear friends. Extroverts go wide; introverts go deep. With fewer social commitments, introverts can spend more time and effort developing those closest relationships.

These principles can be applied in the context of networking. Introverts can be aware of different communication styles, plan opportunities to recharge, and focus on making a few key connections instead of using up their energy on small talk. As I’ve read the Guide to Networking with Penguins, or whatever that book is titled, I’ve been rather gratified to see that it also recommends some of my own strategies for coping with social events.

When I attend that writing conference later this summer, I will add to the book’s admirable list of tips my own tried-and-true strategy: liquid courage. It is for such times, after all, that God made coffee.

445. How Much Should I Talk about My Book?

All right, guys. Serious question.

How much should I talk about my book project, the Lance Eliot saga, on this blog?

As TMTF staggers ponderously toward its imminent demise, I’m wondering how to fill its final fifty-something posts. I’m also thinking a lot about the changes I plan to make to Lance Eliot’s story. Should these musings intersect? Should I start sharing some of my plans for the Lance Eliot saga—no major spoilers, mind you, just basic stuff—on this blog?

I’m excited about my book project, and eager to share some of my early ideas. I would appreciate feedback, too. As Neil Gaiman observed, “writing is, like death, a lonely business.” Community is important for creativity. I could use the suggestions, ideas, and enthusiasm of my readers.

Writing is hard

A writer needs all the help he can get.

Another potential benefit of writing about the Lance Eliot saga is the possibility of raising interest in, and awareness for, the project. It would also give me a smoother segue from writing a blog about nothing in particular to writing a book.

However—and this is an important “However,” spoken in a deep voice and with a concerned expression—I don’t want to annoy or alienate any of my readers by talking too much about my writing plans. People read this blog, I assume, for… whatever it is that happens here. (Heck if I know.) Most readers don’t come here to read about unrelated projects.

I don’t want readers who enjoy TMTF for what it is to be disappointed by repeated discussions of a completely separate project. I don’t want anyone to feel that TMTF has become a blog “just for that book project,” especially since there is only a limited number of posts left.

If I wrote about my plans for the Lance Eliot saga, new posts might offer character profiles, an updated geopolitical situation for my imaginary world, stories from its lore, thematic elements, and maybe more.

I’m not sure what to do, so I’m leaving this one to you. What are your thoughts? What would you like to see from this blog? Should I share early ideas from the Lance Eliot saga? Should I stick to… um… whatever this blog is already? At this point, TMTF exists largely because of its readers. (I care about you, believe it or not.)

Should I write occasional posts about my book project, or stick to this blog’s usual topics? Let us know in the comments, or send me a note on social media!

443. Good Things, Bad Things

While this blog was on break, I went to a wedding. It was splendid. I’m not the sort of person who enjoys weddings, but this one was all right.

The tables at which the wedding guests were seated were named after fantasy lands, from Hyrule to Narnia to Middle-earth. I sat at the Redwall table, drinking coffee and stacking the paper cups like a conqueror piling up the skulls of his vanquished foes. I chatted with relatives, some of whom I hadn’t seen in many years.

The whole stacking-empty-cups-like-skulls-of-slain-enemies thing is a habit of mine.

All around me rang the joyous hubbub of dozens and dozens of people, all gathered to celebrate the union of a man and a woman who really love each other. I may not care much for weddings, but heck, I’m not made of stone. It was a lovely evening made special by lovely people, and also by cake and coffee.

For a few months, I’ve struggled more often with depression, but on that evening, it all seemed very far away.


I love road trips. A good road trip is a breath of fresh air—no, a blast of fresh air. It blows away the dust and cobwebs of tired routines and lingering anxieties, making even familiar things seem new again.

My younger brother and I took a road trip to attend that wedding. (Due to scheduling difficulties, we had to miss another wedding last week, which is too bad.) We followed back roads through woods and meadows, along rivers, and past quaint little towns. An iron sky stretched over us. Rain spattered the windshield, but we were wrapped in warm clothes, with coffee drinks at our elbows, comfortably braced for our travels.

Eliezer

There’s nothing like a road trip on a wet day.

At one point, as I lounged in the passenger seat, I spread out my duster overcoat like a blanket. “If you need me,” I told my brother, “I’ll be in my duster cave.” With that, I dove into warm darkness, where I spent a few cozy minutes thinking of nothing in particular.

After the wedding, as we drove homeward in deepening gloom, I made up for lost time by thinking hard about my plans for my book project, the Lance Eliot saga. I bounced some ideas off my bro, who listened patiently and made encouraging noises.

After years of feeling stressed and guilty about my book project, I felt something different. I felt optimistic. I felt excited. “Lance Eliot’s story is going to be so much better this time,” I told myself, “assuming I ever get around to writing the damned thing.”

I don’t know whether I’ll ever finish Lance Eliot’s story, but after that trip, I felt eager to try.


Those days of rest and travel were like a strong wind, blowing away the dust, and breathing hope into my life. I appreciated the break from blogging. It was good to spend a few hours on the road, and great to spend time with family. I’m encouraged and refreshed.

However, a cynical part of me can’t help but wonder: How long before the dust settles again? In the past few days, familiar shadows of gloom and anxiety have crept up on me at odd moments. Has anything really changed? What happens when my hopefulness wears off?

I don’t know.


C.S. Lewis once wrote,

Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes.

Blogging pro tip: When in doubt, quote C.S. Lewis. Works every time.

My hope and courage are more dependent on my moods than I feel comfortable admitting. When times are good, I tend to assume they’ll stay that way. When times are bad, I lose hope of ever seeing better ones. I get so caught up in the moment that I can hardly imagine the future being any different than the here and now.

TMTF returns today after a two-week break. I took that break because of some bad days, and during those two weeks I had some really good ones.

Life is full of good and bad things. I once wrote of a lesson from Doctor Who, in which the good Doctor says,

The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant.

I tend to let these good and bad things dictate my moods, and thus, much of my life. I’m trying to learn to enjoy good things without becoming overoptimistic, and to endure bad ones without losing hope. As it is written, “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other.”

God is there, in the good times and the bad. So are many of the people whom I love most, and that’s a comfort.

In other news, TMTF is back to updating regularly. We apologize for the inconvenience.

434. Reviving Lance Eliot

I recently declared my intention of resurrecting the Lance Eliot saga. With that announcement out of the way, I was free to sit back, swallow a feeling of rising panic, and ask myself, “Now what?”

I won’t begin working on a new manuscript for The Trials of Lance Eliot until after this blog bites the dust later this year, but I have plenty of groundwork to lay in the meantime. Not much research or planning went into my previous attempts to tell Lance Eliot’s story. This time, as I prepare for one last do-or-die effort, I want to give it a solid foundation.

In case anyone is interested in getting a glimpse into my creative process, here are some of my early preparations for reviving Lance Eliot.

Flipping heck, when did I get to be so old?

Figure 1: A writer hard at work in the conceptual stage of stage of writing.

Background reading

Reading is often a deceptively vast part of the writing process. Before returning to Lance Eliot’s story, I want to revisit some of the works that influenced it. One of these is Dante’s Divine Comedy, upon which the Lance Eliot saga is (very) loosely based. Another is Reading for Redemption, a book by one of my college professors. It posits a theory of literary criticism that informed the Lance Eliot character.

I also need to do some research. In previous drafts of the story, the setting is simplistic: a kingdom tucked between two empires, quietly minding its own business. I want to create a more precarious political situation by making the kingdom a reluctant player in a rivalry between its neighbors. When I explained this idea to my dad, he suggested I look into the history of Uruguay, which was apparently caught in a conflict between Brazil and Argentina. I clearly have some reading to do.

Uruguay

Figure 2: Real-world inspirations can be helpful.

I’ll also have to reread the latest version of The Trials of Lance Eliot because, honestly, I’ve forgotten most of it. There was a character called Tsurugi, wasn’t there? I’m pretty sure there was. And Lancelot came into it somehow? I could use a review.

Story planning

I need to begin fitting together the pieces of the story long before I start writing. Some writers are able to get away with making things up as they go along, but when I do that, I generally end up with a lot of fluff.

I want to streamline the story this time, making sure every scene and character contributes something meaningful. That will take a lot of careful planning. I’m not yet sure how I’ll keep track of everything—a notebook? Index cards? Desk graffiti?—but I’ll try to craft a more focused story.

World-building

In previous attempts to write Lance Eliot’s story, I felt too impatient to do any more world-building than absolutely necessary. If Lance Eliot doesn’t see it, I thought, the reader won’t see it, and I won’t have to make it up.

Sadly, my apathy toward the world I had created made it a bland, generic place. I need to start asking myself more questions. What’s the history of my fictional kingdom? What sort of holidays does it celebrate? What are its cultural influences? How high are its tables? I need to answer these kinds of questions even though some of my answers won’t make it into the story.

High vs. low tables

Figure 3: Table height. It matters, guys.

The reader’s image of the world I create will be much vaguer than my own. If I have only a faint concept of Lance Eliot’s world, how much fainter will the reader’s be!

Reader feedback

The Trials of Lance Eliot has been rattling around in my head for so many years that my view of it is deeply subjective. I could use some objective views from other people. What works in the story? What doesn’t? What needs to change?

If you’ve read the book, and if you can offer any feedback, please feel free to send it my way!

These early preparations for writing a story are, for me, the fun part. It’s when the writing starts, and I have to put my ideas onto paper, that things get tough.

I suppose I’ll worry about that when I get there.

433. I Nearly Left My Faith Last Year

I have put off writing this post for a long time. I was afraid it might cause some of the religious people in my life to shout, “ADAM WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU HAVE MORE FAITH,” and some of my nonreligious friends to shout, “LET IT GO ADAM BE ENLIGHTENED,” and shouting stresses me out.

That said, this post is an extremely personal one, and I’ll be grateful for sensitivity in the comments. Advice or criticism, however gentle or well-intentioned, probably won’t help today. I’m not asking for any of that.

I’m just telling a story.

I considered leaving my faith last year. I didn’t actually leave it, in case you were wondering. For better or worse, Adam Stück remains a follower of Jesus Christ.

Crucifixion statue

The year 2015 was, all things considered, a memorable one. I quit my old job, started a new one, went on an unexpected adventure, switched job positions, lost a dear friend, grew a scruffy jaw-beard, and got a cat. As I blogged about the turbulent changes of 2015, there was one I didn’t mention.

I have long wrestled with doubts about the existence of God. Of all the posts on this blog, probably the most important to me is the one in which I discussed my uncertain faith. “If I’m a fool,” I wrote long ago, “at least I have the consolation of being God’s fool.”

I’ve been a dedicated Christian since 2004, when I began taking Christ seriously. Faith was effortless in high school, and even college (despite my Thursday Afternoon of the Soul and other rough patches) didn’t dampen my devotion to God. I was convinced he had a plan for my life, and I was following it, and everything would work out if I kept the faith and worked hard.

Cathedral

Then, around the time I started this blog, I realized I didn’t want to follow the career I had studied in college. I panicked, uncertain of where to go next. My plans, which I had always assumed were really God’s plans, suddenly seemed mistaken.

Less than a year later, my most cherished writing project, a little book titled The Trials of Lance Eliot, crashed and burned. I had wondered before whether I had wasted three and a half years of college; now I asked myself whether I had wasted twice that time working on a failed novel.

My career plans had gone awry. My book plans had failed. I was stuck in a really bad job situation. However, I didn’t give up. I assumed my situation was some sort of spiritual desert: a test after which God would lead me to my “real” future. I clung to faith. I endured.

Then, when I finally left that lousy old job last year, I didn’t arrive at my long-sought promised land—I just reached another dead end. (Sure, it was a much nicer dead end, but just as dead.)

It made me question things.

Was there ever a bigger plan?

What if there never was?

Where is God?

Along with these questions came the all of the familiar ones with renewed urgency: Why does Scripture seem so inconsistent and self-contradictory? Why has Christ’s life been followed by two thousand years of empty silence? Why is the world so broken? Why do so many religious people seem hypocritical or out of touch?

As I set aside my long-held religious preconceptions, a naturalistic worldview began to seem more rational than a religious one. I asked myself, “If I give up faith in Christ, what happens?” Do I put in two weeks’ notice? Is there paperwork? Do I sing “Let It Go” on a snowy mountaintop somewhere, or what?

As I pondered who I would become without Christ, an ugly picture emerged: a bitter, self-centered geek wrapped in a cocoon of video games, television, and other anesthetics, reveling in theretofore forbidden pleasures like porn and alcoholism, grieving the death of his faith, and pursuing his own comfort and happiness at any cost.

I didn’t like that picture.

Jerk [resized]

I don’t want to believe in Christianity because it’s convenient or well-intentioned. I want to believe in it because it’s true. Is it? I wish I knew. A lot of evidence supports it, but no conclusive proof. I hope Christianity is true. I choose to believe it is, and I’m trying to live my life according to that belief.

Whatever good I’ve done, I’ve done because of my Christian faith. Whatever good I’ve done, I’ve done for Christ. There’s something in that, even if my beliefs turn out to be mistaken. I would rather live for Christ, and die in hope, than live for myself, and die miserable.

I conclude with a scene from one of the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. (Spoilers, I guess?) In one of the books, the heroes are trapped deep underground with a beautiful witch. She enchants them into believing the world has no surface. There is no sky, she says, and no sun. There is no land called Narnia, and no king named Aslan. The only world is underground, the only lights are lamps, and the only ruler is the witch herself.

Everyone falls under the witch’s spell, except an old grump named Puddleglum, who has this to say:

One word, Ma’am. One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder. I’m a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won’t deny any of what you said. But there’s one thing more to be said, even so.

Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things—trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it.

We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.

I’m less certain of my faith than ever before, but I’m going to stand by it. I’m on Christ’s side even if Christ doesn’t live to lead it. I’m going to live as a Christian even if Christianity isn’t true—and I believe it is.

Either way, for better or worse, I’ll stand by Jesus Christ.

426. I Want to Make You Feel

I recently announced my decision to revive the Lance Eliot saga, my greatest and most personal writing project. Today I will tell you why I made that big decision, but there is something else, something important, I must discuss first.

Excuse me, Sir or Madam, but have you heard the good word about Disney’s Zootopia?

Zootopia movie poster

Not far from my home in the little town of Berne there stands a cozy cinema called the Ritz Theatre. (I discovered it when I ventured forth to see The Lego Movie a couple of years ago.) The Ritz has two theater rooms, one of which is fairly small, and an old-timey lobby with a big plaster model of an Oscar trophy. I love the Ritz Theatre. It wraps the sound and fury of Hollywood movies in the charm of a friendly small business.

My younger brother and I recently made a pilgrimage to the Ritz Theatre to see Zootopia, Disney’s latest animated movie. It was fantastic. However, as much as I would love to spend this blog post explaining why the movie is fantastic, that’s not really the point. (Seriously, though, go watch Zootopia.)

The point is that Zootopia made me feel things. It evoked far deeper feelings of catharsis and happiness than any kids’ movie has any right to do. I am not an emotional person. I am, despite my sense of humor and typically sunny disposition, pragmatic and logical.

Thus, when the feels hit me, they hit me hard.

HRRRNNNGGG

I just can’t take the feels, man.

Zootopia is far from the first story to make me make me feel things. Heck, nearly every new animated Disney film since Bolt back in 2008 has left an emotional impression. For some reason, while movies for adults appeal to my intellect, movies for kids are the ones that appeal to my feelings. (Disney, Pixar, and Studio Ghibli, I’m looking right at you.)

I like positive feelings. Most people do. I’m not often emotionally overwhelmed by a story, but when I am, it’s an amazing experience. It’s a fleeting encounter with the power of storytelling: as J.R.R. Tolkien suggested, “a far-off gleam or echo” of a happy ending to our own story, which is being told by the greatest Storyteller of all.

Speaking of Tolkien, I admit few stories have made me feel as much as The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien’s masterpiece, especially the last chapters of its final book, The Return of the King, warms even my impassive old heart.

I haven’t read The Lord of the Rings since 2009 or so, and much of it had faded from my memory, but something happened last year to change that.

A few days after Christmas, my brother and I visited a family friend. I’ll call him Socrates here. (In real life, I call him Barabbas. It’s a fun story.) After welcoming us into his home, Socrates made snacks and put on the film adaptation of The Return of the King. It had been almost as long since I had seen the film as it had since I had read the book!

Return of the King movie poster

Something happened that night. The movie was as good as I remembered, but beyond that, something woke up inside me. I felt an overwhelming peace and happiness: the nostalgia of fond memories in harmony with the catharsis of seeing beloved characters reach a happy ending. It was then I realized something: I knew I once wanted to write a story of my own, but I had forgotten why.

This was why.

That night reminded me of why I decided to write stories in the first place: I wanted to feel, and I wanted to make other people feel, too. Stories like Zootopia and The Return of the King gave me moments of cathartic happiness, peace, and comfort. I wanted to give someone else those moments.

I still do.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. That’s my excuse for picking up the Lance Eliot saga once this blog bites the dust. I want to make you feel.

Blame Tolkien and Zootopia.

422. Lance Eliot Is Not Dead

A long time ago, I declared the death of a dream. My attempts to tell the tale of Lance Eliot, a sarcastic and reluctant hero, had finally failed. I pronounced Lance Eliot dead… well, mostly dead.

I announce today that Lance Eliot is alive… well, somewhat alive. (I thought about titling this blog post Lance Eliot Is Alive, but that seemed much too optimistic, so we’ll have to settle for Lance Eliot Is Not Dead.)

After Typewriter Monkey Task Force concludes later this year, I will rewrite the first part of Lance’s story, The Trials of Lance Eliot, before moving on to its two sequels.

At any rate, that’s the plan. God only knows how many years it will take me to write the Lance Eliot saga, or whether I shall even finish it. I don’t know if I can, but I suppose I’ll try.

The Lance Eliot story cycleAt this point there are three questions I should probably answer. Why am I rewriting The Trials of Lance Eliot instead of working directly on its sequels? Why am I revisiting Lance Eliot’s story instead of starting something totally new? And who the heck is Lance Eliot anyway?

Let’s start with that last one.

Who the heck is Lance Eliot?

From pretty much the moment I could read, I wanted to write a book. Years later, in middle school, I steeped my impressionable imagination in the fantasy novels of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Stephen R. Lawhead; I also played a lot of fantasy games, such as the outstanding Legend of Zelda series. It was then, during my awkward transition from boy to slightly-taller-and-less-chubby-boy, that my vague dream of writing a book crystallized into a clear ambition of writing a fantasy novel.

It wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school that I stumbled upon a decent idea for a story. People in fantasies and fairy tales are often summoned from one place to another by magic. What if a magician summoned the wrong person by mistake? What she tried to summon, say, Lancelot from the Arthurian legends, but got some unsuspecting loser instead?

Over the next six years, the idea became a short story, and then a completed novella, and then one or two incomplete manuscripts, and then finally a published novel—and then it failed spectacularly, failing even to recoup the expenses of publication. I struggled for a year or so to make progress on its sequels, and finally gave up.

This brings us to the next question.

Why am I revisiting Lance Eliot’s story?

I no longer dream of publishing novels. Even if I finish all three parts of the Lance Eliot saga, which is by no means guaranteed, I may not bother publishing them. If I do take another stab at publication, I will probably self-publish instead of working with a literary agent or trying to court a major publishing house.

My reason for revisiting Lance Eliot’s story is a simple one: it’s a story I want to tell. In the vast scheme of things, it isn’t remotely special. It won’t be particularly deep or clever or original. I have no delusions of grandeur this time around. The Lance Eliot saga won’t be a masterpiece. It will be nothing more than a story I want to tell—a story I feel compelled to tell—a story I’ve struggled for more than a decade to tell.

I’ve already told part of it, but not very well. This leads to the final question.

Why am I rewriting The Trials of Lance Eliot instead of moving on to its sequels?

A few people have said ridiculously nice things about my novel; in response, I’m touched, flattered, and grateful. When I look at it, however, I see an embarrassing number of clichés, oversimplifications, cheap coincidences, and lackluster characterizations.

I believe I can do better. There are so many things I want to change about the story, including some I haven’t mentioned. Instead of writing reluctant sequels to a failed novel, I want to start over with more experience and creative freedom, and less emotional and literary baggage.

Am I excited to revisit the Lance Eliot saga? Nah, not really. What I feel is a mixture of resignation, determination, nervousness, and cautious optimism.

After four or five manuscripts, one failed novel, and more than a decade of hard work, I am now almost ready to begin working on the Lance Eliot saga. Oh, boy.

Here I go again.

355. What I Want to Change about The Trials of Lance Eliot

I once wrote a novel titled The Trials of Lance Eliot, and readers have asked me whether I plan to write sequels. I may continue Lance’s story someday, but what I really want to do is rewrite its first part.

Well, I don’t want to rewrite The Trials of Lance Eliot completely. (That would take a lot of work.) However, having put a couple of years between myself and my novel, I’ve realized there are quite a number of things I want to change.

The Trials of Lance EliotHere’s what I want to change about The Trials of Lance Eliot.

In case anyone is interested in reading my little book, be ye warned: There be major spoilers ahead!

I want to remove Miles and a few other characters.

When I wrote the novel, I had big plans for Miles. He is a traveling companion to Lance, Regis, and Tsurugi, and I wanted him to balance the group by being a foil for each of them. With his soft heart, strong work ethic, and childlike faith, Miles was supposed to challenge Lance’s selfishness, Regis’s irresponsibility, and Tsurugi’s cynicism.

In the end, however, Miles doesn’t contribute much. He drops out of the story partway through, making a halfhearted encore toward the end. I don’t think the novel needs him. A few other characters could be just as easily removed: Atticus, for example, could be replaced by Petra. I think The Trials of Lance Eliot has too many underdeveloped characters, and could benefit from the removal of the unnecessary ones.

I want to clear up the disappearance of Maia and Kana.

The supposed deaths and eventual reappearances of both Kana and Maia make me cringe more than almost anything else in The Trials of Lance Eliot. Fake deaths are horribly clichéd.

However, the apparent deaths and subsequent reappearances of these characters are necessary for the story. The deaths of Maia and Kana drive the development of Lance and Regis, respectively: Lance becomes depressed, and Regis resolves to become an honest man. Maia and Kana must be reintroduced later in the story: Kana to rescue Lance, and Maia to send him home. I can think of no easy way to dodge these fake deaths.

However, I can be less coy about Maia and Kana’s disappearances. I want to state merely that they are “missing,” not that they are necessarily dead. That would still provide some tension, while making their inevitable revivals seem less contrived.

I want to start the story in the US instead of in the UK.

Full disclosure: I started the story in Oxford only because J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, my favorite fantasy writers, lived there. I’ve never actually been to the UK. Most of what I know about contemporary British culture comes from watching Sherlock and Doctor Who. I don’t know enough about the UK to make it a convincing start to Lance’s story.

Indiana, a place with which I’m all too familiar, would be a perfectly adequate place for the start of The Trials of Lance Eliot. If anything it would be better: a small Indiana town is far less interesting than Oxford, which would make Lance’s adventures seem more exciting by contrast.

I want to make Regis a girl.

Not long ago, someone on Twitter shared the following quote from Noelle Stevenson: “When you write a male character, think ‘does this character have to be male? Why?'”

Like The HobbitThe Trials of Lance Eliot is overstuffed with male characters. (I love The Hobbit, but its lack of female characters is appalling.) It wasn’t my intention to discriminate against female characters; I wrote mostly male ones because, well, I happen to be a guy. In the end, The Trials of Lance Eliot had only three female characters with any depth, and only one of them (Maia) received much characterization.

I’m no feminist, but I’ve realized it isn’t fair for my characters to be men by default. Of all the characters in my novel, Regis has probably the fewest reasons for being male. I want to rewrite the character as a young lady. I suppose that means I would have to change the name, wouldn’t it?

I want to change the orphanage in Valdelaus to a home for persons with disabilities.

Orphanages have become a cliché in storytelling. A home for persons with disabilities would offer far better opportunities for both pathos and comedy—believe me, I know!

I want to publish the book under my own name.

I’ve already discussed this, and have nothing to add.

I want to use exposition more evenly.

An early chapter of my novel is mostly exposition as Kana explains things to Lance. Perhaps Kana could offer his explanations incrementally across a couple of chapters? Whatever my solution, the early chapters should strike a better balance between action and exposition.

I want to rewrite some of the dialogue.

I prefer to use good grammar, but that isn’t how ordinary people talk. My characters should speak less like Adam writing and more like people actually talking.

I want Lance to swear like a normal person.

Lance’s dated British euphemisms are a bit silly. People don’t say things like “dash it” and “what in blazes” anymore. (Well, I do, but I do a lot of strange things.) My novel may be a case in which mild profanity would be justified. Ordinary swearwords like “damn” and “hell” would believably convey Lance’s lack of moral fiber toward the beginning of his journey.

These are the changes I would make to The Trials of Lance Eliot… and then, maybe, I could go back to planning its sequels. Maybe.